DETROIT -- Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson foresees plug-in hybrids gaining greater acceptance in Europe at the expense of diesels. He also expects Volvo to continue taking market share from rivals in Europe and elsewhere in 2016. Samuelsson, 64, explained why during an interview with News Editor Dave Guilford, Staff Reporter Diana T. Kurylko and Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc in January at the Detroit auto show.
Q: What do you expect for the European market in 2016?
A: We finally have a positive industry situation in Europe. Our focus is to continue taking market share, which we did in 2015, as we keep moving toward our target of doubling our share of the European market [to 4 percent by 2020].
What future do you see for diesels in Europe and elsewhere?
First of all, we see no future for diesel engines in the U.S. I mean, we have never seen [strong demand for diesels in the U.S.] After what has happened, you can say clearly that we believe in the gasoline engine and plug-in hybrids for the U.S. and China. In Europe, the situation is different because the fuel price is lower [for diesel compared with gasoline in most countries], so the diesel will continue to play a very important role. On the other hand, gasoline engines are getting better, and we believe plug-ins are quickly becoming a third option for European customers.
Volvo sold a record 503,127 vehicles globally in 2015. What is the next big goal?
We want to reach 800,000 by about 2020. If it takes one year longer, no problem. This company needs a bigger volume to achieve sustainable growth, but we have to adapt to the market. We cannot achieve our goals just by discounting and doing a lot of stupid things. It is not very wise to just have a growth target. You also have to have a profitability target and brand-image target.